translated by: myonnie
The night of Bertine's outing.
Ignacio visited Bertine's room with a slightly flustered look. Bertine and Dorothee had just finished serving the food they bought on the table and were eating their dinner. Bertine, whose meal was bread, dried meat, apple, and water, had become quite haggard compared to when she first arrived.
Ignacio assessed the situation the moment he entered the room and bowed. "I'm very sorry for my lack of guidance and care to the servants, Miss."
"Have the guards told you about the situation?"
"I received the report that not even water was provided, let alone food. We..."
"Dinner was served earlier, but I can't bring myself to eat anything prepared by someone who's treating me like this. Food is edible only if we trust the person who makes them, don't you agree?"
Ignacio nodded, full of regret.
"There's more, Sir Ignacio. I'm thinking of leaving this place tomorrow. Staying here only brands me as 'the willful woman desperate to be the wife.' Don't you think that's too much? I planned to wait until His Excellency's return, but this is enough."
"Miss Juan, I understand that it's difficult for you to return to your home country, but why don't you go to the empire? I'll do my best to help you, even though it may be lacking."
Bertine ruefully laughed. "And give the empire a chance to blame Saint-Leuhan? My father is the prime minister. I can't do that. I will do my best in this country."
The Marquess' daughter was forced to abandon her status, and she was now eating plain bread and drinking uncooked water. Bertine's appeal moved Ignacio's heart, so he accepted her request. He too offered, "I will introduce you to a reliable leasing agency. Please have my letter of introduction before you leave."
Bertine and Dorothee packed their belongings that night. The next morning, the group of sympathizing guards helped them load their luggage onto the carriage. Inside the carriage were Bertine, Dorothee, and the servants she had brought with her, quickly departing from Cecilio's mansion.
After several hours.
Dorothee was shopping, dressed in the clothes she had bought in this country. She bought several more dresses usually worn by middle-class women and returned to the carriage. The items in the carriage had been exchanged with second-hand common items. Bertine had long sold out the five fine carriages prepared by her father in Cecilio's residence. The carriages were sold at a good price, increasing the gold coins in Bertine's purse. She also sold the bulky, expensive items her father had given her.
Bertine entrusted the five servants who accompanied her to this country with a letter to her father roughly outlining her situation and urged them to return home, handing them some gold coins for the travel expenses. With the war ending, the ships also resumed traffic between Saint-Leuhan Kingdom and the Allies. The servants shed tears over Bertine's misfortune, but rejoiced that they could return home, and left for the port with the carriage she had rented.
"Dorothee, it's a blessing that you've also learned the Allies' official language."
"Yes! It was to be My Lady's foreign languages conversation partner at that time, but now I'm truly grateful we learned it together."
"Hey, Dorothee. What do you think Father will do once he reads my letter? I wrote there that I won't be returning home."
"My Lord is the prime minister. He may not be able to tell you to come home. But remember that I'm here with you, My Lady."
"Your presence alone is already giving me enormous strength, Dorothee."
It was only the two of them remaining. Bertine read the letter of introduction given by Ignacio and tore it up without hesitation.
"He wrote that I should be treated with respect because I'm the Marquess' daughter of Saint-Leuhan Kingdom. Why would he expose my identity, when it does me nothing but harm? For the people in this country, aren't I simply a woman who willfully wants to become the wife of their country's hero?"
"I guess so. The people from this country might wonder why they should treat us well."
"Let's try to find some other agencies without telling them our identity. You will play the role of my master, and I will be your maid."
At the leasing agency on the outskirts of the capital.
Bertine was dressed in a maid uniform, complete with a white hat worn by the maids of this country. She bowed her head and walked behind Dorothee around the agents. The first and second agencies didn't have properties that met their wishes, but thankfully the third leasing agency guided them to a property suitable for two women.
Bertine and Dorothee rested in the small house.
A small front yard and a large backyard. The house was old, but it had good exposure to sunlight. An old couple had used the dwelling with a storefront as a general store until two months ago.
"Let's see what's sought in this country before we decide on the direction of our business. Make sure not to be hasty since we'll be fine. We still have enough funds to feed ourselves."
"My Lady, I'm sure you'll do well."
"I've learned that when the war ends, people first want good food, then they start to crave beautiful things and items to heal their hearts. There should be business opportunities here."
Dorothee prepared a simple dinner with Bertine's inexperienced help. The two toasted with cheap wine. Bertine, slightly drunk, declared with a serious look on her face.
"Dorothee, have you heard of the saying, 'When a gentleman from Saint-Lauhan falls down, they will pick up something and get back on their feet'? Watch me. I'll put that into practice and show you how it's done!"
"People from other countries make fun of us because of that, My Lady... But somehow, I too want to challenge myself now. I'll also get better at cooking!"
"Thank you, Dorothee."
Thus began the life of a former Marquess' daughter and her maid.
The Allies representative, Cecilio Bonifacio, returned ten nights after Bertine left his residence. Cecilio was furious when he found out from Ignacio and his guards regarding Bertine de Juan's experience until she departed from his place.
"Gather all the servants!"
The servants were summoned to the office, pale faces unanimously looking at the ground. Cecilio was exhausted after returning from the flooding area, but his anger made him forget his fatigue.
"The other countries will keep looking down on us as a barbaric nation as long as you all keep doing stupid things like this. Why can't you understand that!? Are you proud of yourself now after bullying a woman who came to a hostile country at the behest of her own country? I can't believe that such a stupid thing could happen in my mansion of all places. Didn't anyone think that she was a victim too?"
The head of the maids and the butler bowed first, followed by the others.
"There won't be a second time. Next time you try to disgrace the face of the Allies, everyone will be punished accordingly. Remember that. I will go and apologize to the young lady first thing tomorrow morning. Enough. Leave."
Cecilio Bonifacio said so and brushed back his shoulder-length black hair. His frozen sapphire blue eyes then moved towards Ignacio. Ignacio lowered his head with an uncomfortable look on his face.
"I introduced her to a reliable leasing agency and handed her a letter of introduction, so we can find out her location right away."
"You didn't go with her? Even if that young lady is in her enemy country and has no way of knowing directions?"
"She strongly refused..."
"Haa... I see. Forget it. You should leave too. Ah, right. I'm forbidding Bianca from entering this place for the time being. It's my fault for tolerating her because she's the daughter of an influential tribal chief. She took it too far when she misunderstood and pretended to be my fiancee. I'll personally file a complaint to the chief."
Cecilio couldn't quell his anger even when he was left alone. He slammed his office desk with both hands, causing a loud bang.
He had aimed to protect the people of this country from starvation, to make it a rich country on par with the empire in terms of academics and culture. The Centor Empire took advantage of the Allies' illiteracy to buy iron ore, gold ore, silver ore, and grains at low prices. Cecilio had always despised them for acting like the rulers of the colony.
That's why Cecilio wasn't satisfied with the position of head of tribals he succeeded from his father. He negotiated with dozens of other tribal chiefs to unite them into one nation.
Aiming for an "equal relationship with the empire", he went to the empire and learned their way of think and the structure of society. All while being looked down upon.
It took him ten years to unite the tribes, fight against the empire, and finally win against that country at the age of thirty-five. Yet how come he couldn't manage his immediate servants?
"I should apologize right away tomorrow," Cecilio muttered, somehow managing to fix his mood.
"She never came? No noble lady with a letter of introduction from Ignacio?"
"Yes. I'm afraid there's no such person."
Cecilio was appalled at the words of the leasing agency.
Upheaval and excitement buoyed the country after winning the war. It's not impossible that some rowdy men may have approached her in a fit of exhilaration. Worried, Cecilio hurriedly ordered a search for the Marquess' daughter.
However, none of the leasing agencies had seen a noble lady resembling Bertine, as the woman had disappeared without a trace.
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